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Lightning looks for boost on penalty kill

TAMPA — Louder than the sound of pucks hitting glass during Monday's practice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and checked bodies rattling boards was the voice of Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness.

"Pressure, pressure," he yelled at players working on the penalty kill, a reminder to take away time and space from opponents.

As Bowness later explained, that was something Tampa Bay did not do in Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Penguins in which Pittsburgh scored three power-play goals, including the winner with 18.6 seconds left.

"We showed them too much respect," said Bowness, who is in charge of the penalty kill. "We weren't aggressive enough, just letting them stand there and make plays. We didn't communicate enough and, quite honestly, we just didn't compete hard enough."

That is a hard assessment, but there is no soft-peddling the Lightning's problems on the penalty kill and no time to waste addressing them.

With a 68.2 percent efficiency — seven goals allowed in 22 times shorthanded — Tampa Bay entered Monday 26th in the 30-team league.

Granted, one of those goals was a fluke as Chicago's Brandon Saad scored when a puck rimmed around the glass deflected from the corner to the front of the net, which goalie Ben Bishop abandoned while anticipating the puck's path.

But that doesn't change this reality: "You can pretty much count on being (shorthanded) six to 10 minutes in a game," coach Jon Cooper said. "We've got to be on top of it in those situations."

"It's something we've got to clean up," right wing B.J. Crombeen said. "We've met about it. We've talked about it. Now, it comes down to executing what we're supposed to do."

It starts with taking the opposing power play out of its comfort zone, Crombeen said.

"You don't want to give them time and space," he said. "You want them to be uncomfortable and put them in spots they don't want to be in."

Such as taking low-quality shots, defenseman Eric Brewer said. "You're trying to put guys on half-net shots, where you cut the ice in half and the D can take some of the angles away. Clearly, we could block a few more shots, as well."

And goaltenders have to make saves, something Anders Lindback failed to do Saturday on Matt Niskanen's unscreened slap shot that went in short side and was the game winner.

"It's work hard, but it's work with a purpose and work together," Bowness said. "You can go work and compete, but if you don't know what the other guy is doing then you're working your butt off and doing nothing. It's five guys, including your goalie working together."

How much of a drag has the penalty kill been? Consider, Tampa Bay (3-2-0) has outscored opponents 10-5 playing five-on-five, and the power play entered Monday tied for third in the league at 31.6 percent.

Get the penalty kill going "and we feel we're going in the right direction," Crombeen said. "It's early in the season. It's time to fix it, not let it linger. It's something we know we have to do, and we're going to go out and do it."

Bishop update: Goalie Ben Bishop (lower body) practiced Monday. Cooper said he will decide today if he is ready to play.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

. Tonight

Lightning vs. Kings

When/where: 7:30; Tampa Bay Times Forum

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: The Lightning entered Monday with the league's top home power play at 40 percent. … RW Teddy Purcell was tied for the league lead with three power-play goals. … Los Angeles has won three straight games. … Tampa Bay has not beaten the Kings at home since Feb. 6, 2007 (0-1-1).

Go Green Night: Fans who bicycle to the game can valet park their bikes on Ford Thunder Alley and receive a voucher for a discounted ticket, while supplies last. The voucher is for a $15 terrace level seat or an upgrade to a lower-bowl ticket for $35.

Lightning looks for boost on penalty kill 10/14/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 14, 2013 10:28pm]
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